The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for foundational stage (children aged 3 to 8 years) education was recently released by the Union Ministry of Education. With the government unveiling the first NCF for the foundational stage, pre-primary school children have entered the formal schooling system in India for the first time.

 

Background

  • Early childhood lays the groundwork for life-long learning and development, as experts have proved that 85% of the brain development happens by the age of 7 or 8.
  • As a result, the new 5+3+3+4 curricular structure, which integrates ECCE for all children aged 3 to 8, was included in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
    • ECCE under the Anganwadi system primarily focused on nutrition of a child, while in the private sphere – the playschool system has been unregulated.
  • Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Education had constituted the National Steering Committee (chaired by K Kasturirangan) in 2021, for the development of NCF.
    • The recently released NCF is based on the recommendations of the above committee.
  • The NCF for the foundational stage will be followed (in future) by its editions for higher classes, as well as teacher and adult education.
  • The NCF serves as a guideline for syllabus, textbooks and teaching practices for the schools in India.
  • Previously, four NCFs (1975, 1988, 2000 and 2005) have been published by the NCERT in India.
  • Language teaching is a complex issue in a multilingual country like India, where teachers may be required to cope with a number of languages in a classroom.
      • According to the NCF 2005, the language of interaction and communication in ECCE would normally be the child’s first or home language.
      • However, in light of socio-political realities, English must be introduced as a second language as early as Class I or as early as preschool.

 

About the NCF

  • The new framework includes the ‘panchakosha‘ concept for education of children aged 3 to 8, with five components —
    • Physical development (sharirik vikas),
    • Development of life energy (pranik vikas),
    • Emotional and mental development (manasik vikas),
    • Intellectual development (bauddhik vikas), and
    • Spiritual development (chaitsik vikas).
  • It provides for the holistic overall transformation of the curriculum of the ECCE that will enable positive transformation of the school education system of India, including pedagogy.
    • It uses ‘play’ at the core of the approaches to curriculum organisation, as children learn best through play.
      • Hence, NCF will enable the achievement of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy for all children.
    • The NCF will deal with the role of teachers as well as parents and communities to achieve developmental outcomes that are sought during this stage.
  • In particular, the NCF aims to help change practices in education and not just ideas, since the word ‘curriculum’ encapsulates the overall experiences that a student has in school.
  • Thus, NCF do not just refer to curricular content and pedagogy, but also include school environment and culture.
  • It is not so much about revision of textbooks, but about changes in teaching and learning process.
  • The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is expected to complete the new syllabus and textbooks for the foundational level soon.

 

Recommendations under the new NCF

  • Currently there is a learning crisis in India, as children are enrolled in primary school but are failing to attain basic skills such as foundational literacy and numeracy.
    • Only 50.9% of the 19,344,199 students admitted to Grade 1 in 2020-21 had prior pre-school experience.
  • Mother tongue will be the primary medium of instruction in both public and private schools for children up to the age of 8, because learning a new language reverses the entire learning process in the early years.
  • English could be one of the second language options. However, it avoids providing any specific timetable for introducing English.
  • A natural, communication-focused approach, supporting their primary medium of instruction is required for young children to acquire skills of speaking fluently in other languages (which could also be English).
  • The children in this age group should not be burdened with textbooks.